Those punters who enjoy backing at level stakes for the win usually have a lot of fun. Some may win a few percent on their turnover during a year, most will lose a little. It all depends, naturally, on how good your selections are!

Level stakes betting, though, doesn't offer an enormous degree of excitement. You can bet and bet, and get on top a bit, and then fall back a bit and many times you'll be cursing your luck when your fancy gets pipped for first spot.

I have always liked the idea of using the quinella as a backup to win betting. I think there is much to be said for a small punter to split his proposed win bet in half, and then use the second half of the bet to cover his fancy with another runner, probably the favourite.

How often do you get rolled by the hotpot? Or if you're on the hotpot, how often do you get knocked off by the well-fancied second favourite? I know, it happens many times. So why not do something about it.

Let's assume you have $20 to spend per race and you bet on, say, five races per meeting. That's a total of $100 outlay for the day. You'll need at least one winner at 4/1 to break even. But what if you decided to split the bet?

You place $10 for the win - and then use the remaining $10 to cover your selection with the favourite or the second favourite (if your fancy is actually the favourite). Now the bet is looking a lot more interesting, and it also is geared to provide you with a handsome windfall should your luck be in.

Let's say that in Race 1, your selection is a 5/1 chance. You put $10 on for the win ($50/$10). Now you couple the selection with the favourite, which is a 2/1 chance, in a quinella for $10. This quinella is likely to pay around the $7 mark for $1. You now stand to get a return of around $130 for your $20, if your selection can win and you can get that favourite into 2nd place for the quinella.

But what if your selection gets rolled by the favourite? Well, your $10 win bet is lost, but you've still landed the quinella and you're getting back around $70. In all, then, you've bet $20 for a $70 return.

In the second race, your fancy is the 6/4 favourite. You back it $10 a win, and take the second favourite at 3/1 for the $10 quinella. Here you are not standing to win a great deal only $15 from the win bet, and around $40 from the $10 quinella. Let's assume this bet fails because your selection fails to run a place.

In the third race, your selection is something of an outsider at 8/1. The favourite is well-fancied at even money. Your $10 goes on for the win ($80/$10) and your $10 goes on the quinella, which has a likely return of around $55. Your potential return, then, is $145 if all goes to plan.

But let's assume it doesn't. Your selection runs 2nd but the favourite wins. At least you've got the quinella and you get back $55 for your $20 overall bet. Now it's on to the fourth race and here you have a selection at 6 / 1 and the favourite is a 2/1 chance.

You bet $10 a win ($60 / $10) and then the $10 quinella bet, which is likely to return about $75 for the $10 bet. Whoopee! You strike both. Your selection wins and the quinella comes up as well. You get a total of $145 back for your $20.

In the final race on which you operate you get a winner at 4/1 with your $10 bet but the favourite fails to get 2nd, so your quinella goes down. Your return is $50 for the $20.

In all, then, you've outlaid $100 and your returns total $320, so you've made a very good profit of $220. Had you bet each horse at $20 for the win your returns would have been $240 from two winners. By betting the quinellas, you've applied leverage of an extra $80 on your day's investments. Where you failed to get a return on two races betting win only, you were able to haul in quinellas using the alternative method.

Now these are just hypothetical examples. To gain even more potential leverage, you could consider avoiding the favourites in the quinella - unless, of course, your own selection is the favourite.

Summing up, then: Quinella betting can be ideal insurance betting. Back your top selection straight out, but couple the horse in quinellas with the runners you reckon are going to be the dangers. Back the quinellas to at least cover your main bet.

A point to remember is that if you are going to back several runners with your main selection, it would be wise to arrange the bets so that whichever combination is successful you get more or less the same return.

Get hold of a quinella guide - we'll be publishing one in the next issue of PPM - to see how much you need to invest to do it properly and reasonably accurately. For instance, if your selection is a 6/1 chance and you want to couple it with three others at 4/1, 5/1 and 10/1 to return you $50, you would need the following bets for the quinella:

6/1 with 4/1  $7
6/1 with 5/1  $6
6/1 with 10/1  $3

This is a total of $16 and your return is going to be more or less $50, whichever one happens to win the quinella.

By Alan Jacobs